Nemec Foster is the author of eight collections of poetry
including Amber Necklace from Gdansk and Ten Songs from
Bulgaria. Her new book, Talking Diamonds, will be published in
2009 by New Issues Press.
near the Ukraine Border
The dead are orthodox. They want everything just so: cut flowers
arranged in a perfect bouquet above their hearts; freshly
starched bows of white linen neatly attached to their
gravestones. Even the mourners have to pay attention to
protocol. Heads must be covered, hands folded in prayer, no
distracted gazes to the right or to the left. The dead are
always straight ahead-in your face, up close and personal.
"Don't you dare forget us," they demand. And the old women near
the Ukraine border never do. On market day they buy extra bread
then cross the San River to walk to the cemeteries. They cover
their gray hair as if they anticipate rain. Toss small crumbs
filled with rye and poppy seed amidst the crowded crosses, the
rusting crucifixes nailed to trees. They watch the beaks of the
blackbirds take the bread to heaven and pray that the dead will
get fat and be satisfied. Even though on gray days, it seems
like only the clouds hear their prayers.